Posted May 7, 2008 10:22 am by

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In a May 6th article published by the Associated Press, Bill Gates was quoted as saying “The Internet has been operating now for 10 years,”… “The second 10 years will be very different.”

Being a bit of an Internet history buff, I cringed to read such a powerful figure in the world of computing being quoted as effectively saying that the Internet has been operating since 1998.

Since I started my first Internet job in 1996, I was pretty sure Bill was wrong.

The word Internet was first coined in 1974, the first respectable network which could be called “the Internet” was created in 1983, and the opening of the Internet to the commercial world occurred in 1988. Of course, all these dates push the history of the Internet well beyond Bill’s 10 year time line.

I really don’t think that Bill Gates thinks the Internet has been operating since 1998.

I can imagine that Bill or a speech writer really liked the idea of saying that in the next 10 years the Internet will be very different than in the last 10 years. Perhaps, fact gave way to anecdote, and before you know it the Associated Press is quoting the misstatement in an article.

There are lessons here for Internet marketers and reputation managers.

Think before you write. Verify before you publish. Prepare before you speak.

Chances are you are operating in a world of constant content creation. New ad creative, landing pages, blog posts, tweets, and press releases are no doubt streaming out of your organization every day. In this furor of new content, make sure you have the checks and balances in place to verify that the content you’re creating is accurate and consistent with the brand you’re trying to build.

In addition to embarrassing misquotes, you may be vulnerable to legal issues like trademark infringement or regulatory issues regarding your industry.

This is one of those publishing / speaking 101 issues that gets overlooked from time-to-time. Luckily there will be no shortage of missteps by others to help us remember to keep an eye on what’s being said.

  • What he means is that Microsoft has known about the internet for the last ten years. πŸ™‚

  • Ahhh… That’s what he meant. I wonder when they’ll learn about search engines πŸ˜‰

  • Even big Bill is not infallible! I am sure that he had a lot of other things on his mind when he made that gaffe. Nice recap about the net though. Good post. Thanks.

  • Thanks for the help Gio. I actually linked to the wrong URL which I subsequently fixed in the post.

    BTW, it should be noted that the quote β€œWe’re approaching the second decade of (the) digital age,” still implies that the Internet has been operating for 10 years.

  • Yeah I doubt Bill thinks that the Internet has been around for merely 10 years. It was likely an oversight as mentioned. Lesson learned and point taken

    LOL – when will they learn about search engines!

  • LOL, that’s a funny slip on everyones part.

  • Comments from “Gio” and “lol” have been deleted due to violation of our comment policy. In light of this, I am also closing comments on this post.